ST. JOSEPH COUNTY – Despite last month's rough economy and few new houses being built, Indiana home sales were actually up 27 percent in August compared to the same time last year.  Local numbers are close to the state average – In St. Joseph County they’re up 22 percent and in Elkhart County, nearly 28 percent. And lots of buyers are getting great deals.

“Before we were even done walking through, I knew that I wanted it,” said Deneen Worthen.

She knows she and her husband got a heck of a deal.

“We knew no matter what - even putting new appliances in and everything - the house was worth more now just walking in the door than when we bought it, instead of the other way around,” she said.

The Worthens bought their Granger home, a foreclosure, earlier this month for $190,000.  It sits on a double lot, has an in-ground pool, and 3,200 square feet. Its assessed value is $275,000.  The home was only on the market five days before the Worthens snatched it up.

When they closed, they found out they were up against 10 other bidders.

It's a prime example of how a record number of foreclosures and low interest rates created what many realtors are calling an unprecedented housing market.

“You can get into a house, [according to] Federal Home Loan Association figures, for 3.5 percent down and an interest rate of 4 1/8 percent,” said local MLS board president and Remax realtor, Marsha Lambright. “It’s giveaway money!”

The number of homes on the market in St. Joseph County is down about 7 percent and the average sale price of homes is up nearly 6 percent, Lambright added. That’s good news.

“That tells me lower priced houses, the really junk foreclosure stuff have been purchased by investors, really rehabbed and now we have a better market out there,” she said. 

Buyers like the Worthens are taking advantage.

“It was too easy to think ‘I’m still coming out ahead,’” Deneen Worthen said.

To put it in context, the year-to-date numbers show St. Joseph County still behind in the number of home sales, compared with the first eight months of 2010. That's because the housing market started out slow at the beginning of this year and has really picked up steam in the past couple of months.